As You Are Seventh-Day Adventist Church (AYA) is located in Williamsburg, Virginia, in a low-income community, where it offers a wide range of primarily religious services. AYA is part of the River Seventh-Day Adventist Conference—East (RCE), which finds and pays for the pastors at each of its churches. In return, the RCE receives the weekly tithes as conference dues, and AYA keeps the offerings given by its members. This partnership has allowed AYA to expand its programming, serving community members facing homelessness, hunger, and financial difficulties.
But over the years, AYA has had its own financial struggles, seeing a decline in tithes and offerings as its membership numbers have declined. It has been forced to end many of its community services in order to preserve church resources. And in 2015, the church’s leader, Pastor Robert Haskins, announced his intention to leave his position early. The RCE decided to replace Haskins with Pastor Alexander Dean, who had a proven track record of turning troubled churches around.
Dean begins his duties at AYA confident that he can correct the church’s course. He quickly becomes a controversial figure, however, due to the changes he decides to make. AYA’s volunteer treasurer wrestles with a conflict between her desire to support Dean in his effective efforts to welcome new members and higher cash donations and her misgivings about his aggressive insistence on increasing his budget as pastor and unilaterally signing off on expensive projects without church committee approval. The treasurer is deeply concerned about how AYA will survive financially under these new pressures, both from the new leader and from sources beyond the church’s control.